Well Met: Renaissance Faires and the American Counterculture by Rachel Lee Rubin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Once could say that the whole concept of the Renaissance Faire, which has become so popular, started out as a dream Ron and Phyllis Patterson. Phyllis had been involved in education and the arts back east working with Middle School and adolescent kids. When they moved out here to California they moved to the Laurel Canyon area. The concept started out as kids getting dressed up in costume and performing. They would go about on a wagon loaned from one of the many entertainment figures living there. She worked at children’s center in the area. From there the idea sort of took off.
The first faire which happened in Southern California was done in connection with KPFK and Pacifica Radio. The first faire was a fund raiser. Now back in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s the entertainment figures and residents of Laurel Canyon were involved with liberal causes and were often under scrutiny from the conservative establishment. KPFK was a liberal radio station oft times being accused of being communist. The first faire was a resounding success. The faire also attracted hippies and would be an influence on society at large.
The second faire was held in Ventura County. The first weekend went off well but the establishment was doing it’s best to thwart it. First the sheriff’s office was requiring al the vendors to get fingerprinted. Then the Ventura county zoing board managed to get the faire banned on the second weekend. This caused the vendors to lose lots of money.
After that the faire got it’s own place in Agoura Hills. The cultural watershed was both an influence and influenced by the pervading hippie culture. The fare helped inaugurate an interest in hand crafted goods as opposed to the mass produced plastic goods. Glasss blowers off made a show of what they did. The Pattersons would also travel to communes and communities where hand crafts were made. They would serve as a market for these goods and help boost their popularity. In this sense the faire served as a bastion or refuge away from the captitistic society that was all encompassing.
The spirit of free love and relaxed boundaries in the realm of relationships found a home in the faire where people could live out this lifestyle or different lifestyles as the faire community was tolerant and accepting of both. Such an attitude was maintained and preserved even up to the present day. Music was also changed. It became more ethnic and eventually more historical incorporating more element of Celtic and Middle Eastern. Had it not been for the faire one could wonder if we would have such a wide variety of interest in international music.
The faire has it’s own community of vendors who travel from faire to faire living in their own moving neighborhoods and culture. These vendors travel in small mobile homes living out of the vans they house their good. Cadres of children grow up together and are homeschooled.
The faire has been about for some time going through many changes. Atfirst being a refuge and countercultural activity. To becoming an activity more obsessed with historical accuracy. Now it has become corporatized yet element of the past still remain.
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